New York Times
New York Times
September 24, 2006
DINING/COLD SPRING HARBOR; Restaurant, Reinvented, Plays a New Tune
By JOANNE STARKEY
EVERYONE loves a makeover. Turn on the television and somewhere a poor soul is getting an overhaul of his wardrobe, his body or his home. Restaurant renovations are just as popular, a case in point being Trattoria Grasso, which reinvented itself in July as Grasso's Fine Dining and Jazz.
The changes here are more than cosmetic. This is no longer a casual Italian cafe but an upscale American restaurant. The menu features steaks, chops and fish with a few Asian spins, like ahi tuna crusted with sesame seeds and accompanied by mango relish and wasabi mashed potatoes, or an appetizer of mussels steamed with coconut milk, red curry paste and lemon grass. At the bottom of the menu, almost as a postscript, are five entrees labeled "always-available favorites". These holdovers from the old menu include tagliatelle Bolognese; the pasta has a stand-up-and-take-notice meat sauce touched with cream.
Now completely renovated, Grasso's is a sophisticated beauty. An attractive granite-topped bar and an arrangement of birds of paradise and ginger blossoms are the first things patrons see as they enter. Behind the bar is a room dominated by a baby grand piano, where live jazz plays Wednesday through Saturday nights. On a recent Saturday, a talented trio and singer turned dinner out into a special evening. In a second dining room, the music can be heard but is not the focus of the meal.
Both rooms have been beautifully decorated with beige sponge-painted walls dotted with large framed mirrors and agreeable art: landscapes, still lifes and a few tributes to jazz. Each table is crowned with a single rose and white napkins with ''Grasso's'' embroidered in dark red.Both the memorable food and the smooth service are as elegant as the surroundings. On one of my visits, the appetizers included as a special some very tasty baked oysters topped with horseradish, bread crumbs and herbs. From the standing menu, my tablemates and I also enjoyed the pan-seared diver sea scallops over a sweet pea purée; the jumbo grilled shrimp in spicy chipotle barbecue sauce; and those Thai-inspired Prince Edward Island mussels.
Salads were also good picks, whether a classic Caesar or the more fanciful Gail's peach salad, a delightful toss of mesclun, grilled peaches, walnuts and goat cheese. With so much strong competition, the bland roasted garlic-goat cheese flan and the chilled beet timbale, a tower of underseasoned shredded beets, were also-rans.Among the entrees, it's hard to choose between the hearty meats and pastas and the lightly turned out fish. Grasso's serves a velvety filet mignon with a pat of red wine-herb butter. Also outstanding were a moist wild-mushroom-stuffed chicken breast and a pork chop filled with prosciutto and fontina in a shiitake mushroom sauce -- another special.
Among the seafood offerings, top honors went to the pan-roasted monkfish with fried capers and to two specials: creamy risotto with sea scallops, peas, fresh tomatoes, white truffle oil and sage, and a whole branzino, boned at tableside. But
pan-roasted red snapper was inexplicably tough.
A restaurant of this caliber should have a more interesting bread basket, possibly one with housemade rolls. Instead, it held half slices of unexceptional Italian bread. Its accompaniments, though, were special: black olive tapenade, olive oil infused with garlic and basil, and grainy mustard butter.
Desserts were housemade beauties that ended the meal on a high note, especially the moist white chocolate bread pudding topped with cinnamon ice cream, the tiramisù (heavy on mascarpone, as it should be) and a sensational napoleon of phyllo pastry, whipped cream and mixed berries. That is not to slight the triple mousse cake, a chocolate lover's dream.
134 Main Street (Route 25A)
Cold Spring Harbor
THE SPACE -- Lovely double storefront. Although it is completely wheelchair accessible inside, it has a few steps outside.
THE CROWD -- Couples and small groups. Live music Wednesday through Saturday nights and on the terrace Sundays from 3 to 6 p.m., while the weather holds.
THE BAR -- Beautiful stone-topped bar. Around 50 bottles on the international wine list ($18 to $250). A dozen wines by the glass, $7 to $10.
THE BILL -- Lunch entrees, $10 to $16; dinner entrees, $19 to $33.
WHAT WE LIKE -- Baked oysters, mussels with coconut curry sauce, grilled shrimp, pan-seared sea scallops, peach salad, Caesar salad; stuffed pork chop, stuffed chicken breast, monkfish, filet mignon, tagliatelle Bolognese; all desserts.
IF YOU GO -- Lunch, Monday to Friday, noon to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Dinner, Monday and Tuesday,
5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, till 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, till 11 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m.
Reviewed Sept. 24, 2006
>> Back to Top